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Want to get into the brewing business? Colorado Enterprise Fund will show you how

When Colorado Small Business Week launches on April 30, the Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) will host a number of  events showcasing the state's smaller enterprises helping entrepreneurs launch new businesses. To help them capitalize on the regional brewing craze, CEF, for the first time, is hosting a workshop aimed at craft beer startups. The workshop, Crafting Success: From Home Brews to Beer Biz, will be hosted at the Commons on Champa on May 5 from 1:00 pm–2:30 pm. 

“With the increase in brewery startups CEF is financing in Colorado, we felt it would be helpful to showcase some of our successful borrowers so others could see it’s possible to follow your dream and make a living,” says Alisa Zimmerman, director of marketing and communications at CEF. 

The event will feature Chad Miller of Black Shirt Brewing Co, Brian O’Connell of Renegade Brewing, Tom Jasko of Colorado Craft Distributors and David Levesque of Launch Pad Brewery. Each of the companies received support from CEF. For instance, Renegade recently expanded into a 15,000 square-foot warehouse and received a working capital loan from CEF in August 2016. 

CEF also is supporting ancillary brewing businesses, like Colorado Craft Distributors, which launched in 2016. The business is a wholesaler of beer, cider, spirits and wine. The founders received a working capital loan from CEF in 2017.

“The featured borrowers each produce, package and distribute their products differently, and may share info on resources they use. We expect them to touch on these areas depending on their current operations and future plans,” Zimmerman explains.

As part of Colorado Small Business Week, CEF will host other events, including tours of refugee and immigrant small businesses in Aurora. It also will host the Colorado Emerging Ventures Breakfast, where entrepreneurs will learn about what a business needs to qualify for a loan. CEF also will host the SBA Colorado Business Week Awards Reception on Wednesday, May 3 at Denver Public Library.

Denver Startup Week Accepting Session Proposals Through Friday

The nation’s largest free startup event, Denver Startup Week, is gearing up for 2017 and it wants your input, soon. The event, which will take place Sept. 25-29, is seeking ideas for sessions in six different tracks to help entrepreneurs learn about launching and growing startups. The deadline for submissions, however, is April 21.

The sessions are in addition to headline events, which bring industry leaders to discuss entrepreneurship, launching a startup and more. The track categories this year include designer, developer, founder, growth, maker and product. Each is intended to address the functional roles in a startup team and will be led by industry experts. 

Last year, the event brought more than 13,000 people to 300 sessions. Organizers, including the Downtown Denver Partnership, Colorado Technology Association and Startup Colorado, expect this year’s startup week, the sixth, will attract even more attendees.

After the deadline passes track chairs will evaluate the submission proposals and approve them for voting on by the community. Then the organizing committee will use the votes and comments to guide the selection and scheduling process.

Sessions in the past have included individual and group presentations as well as panels, workshops and social events. Organizers said that ideas focused on transferring knowledge to the community have the best chance of being selected. T

Innovators, entrepreneurs and others can register and submit proposals here: SUBMIT A TOPIC.

Two teams from Denver make it to Go Code Colorado’s next round

The annual challenge to use public data to create business insights in Colorado, Go Code Colorado, is getting ready for the mentorship weekend April 21-23. Two Denver teams, <div>ersity and Magpie Supply, are among the finalists. In all, more than 230 people participated in the Challenge Weekend events this year. 

“Each year, Go Code Colorado participation and enthusiasm increases across the state,” said Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, whose office runs the contest. “The high-caliber app and business concepts created during challenge weekend will further encourage government entities of all sizes to make their data available to developers and entrepreneurs so its inherent value can be fully utilized.”

The first team, <div>ersity, is harnessing data to create a hiring tool that will help companies build diverse teams. The other team, Magpie Supply, is using data to solve transportation problems for farmers. 

Both teams will join the other finalists in the expenses-paid mentoring weekend. During the weekend,the finalists will have a chance to discuss their ideas with leaders from Techstars, Boomtown, House of Genius and others from Colorado’s tech and entrepreneurial community. 

After that, they will compete for three $25,000 awards, which will be decided in a final competition on May 24. The awards will help the winners move their ideas into the next stage as apps or startup businesses.
 

Low-income Coloradans could lose small business funding under budget proposal

Denver’s Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) is warning that important funding for low-income communities in Colorado is at risk under President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposal. The Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund has issued $40.3 million to Colorado’s 15 CDFIs, including CEF. 

Local CDFIs are able to leverage every $1 in federal funding with up to $12 in private investments from banks, foundations and other funding partners, explains CEF President CEF Ceyl Prinster. “The total economic impact of CDFI grants in Colorado is as much as $480 million supporting businesses, affordable housing and nonprofit community projects.” Under the budget proposal all that economic development could be at risk as the Trump Administration has proposed slashing CDFI’s, says CEF President CEF Ceyl Prinster. 

“CEF was the first mission-driven lending organization in Colorado certified by the CDFI fund in 1996 to serve low-income and minority populations. Over the last two decades, CEF has leveraged $8.5 million in CDFI fund awards to loan more than $58 million, financing nearly 2,000 small businesses in our state,” Prinster states.

The fund has a national budget of just $250 million, Prinster asserts that the CDFI fund costs each American just 79 cents annually.

“CDFIs fill a vital need in the nation’s financial services eco-system by serving communities and market sectors that conventional lenders cannot,” Prinster says. “The ultimate goal of CDFIs is to bring their customers into the mainstream economy as bankable businesses, home owners and/or individuals.”

Indeed, the fund has the support of major banking associations, including the American Bankers Association, who have issued a letter to Congress in support of the CDFI fund.

Denver takes advantage of a soaring economy with JumpStart 2017

Last week Denver introduced JumpStart 2017, its sixth annual strategic jobs plan for economic development.

JumpStart is more than an annual strategy, it is a statement of values for how Denver builds a local economy that secures our community’s legacy and maintains our city’s unique character in the years ahead,” according to Mayor Michael Hancock, who unveiled the plan, put together by the Denver Office of Economic Development (OED).  “In 2017, our eyes are squarely focused on taking the necessary strides to help ensure that all residents have the opportunity to benefit from Denver’s vibrant economy.”

As such, the plan focuses on increasing economic mobility and establishes anti-displacement strategies in certain neighborhoods. In 2017 that focus will include the neighborhoods of Montbello, Westwood, Globeville and Elyria-Swansea. The strategies are designed to help uplift ailing neighborhoods while reducing urban poverty. 

The mayor’s office said that the JumpStart is helping to create jobs in Denver. The previous year’s report aided the development of nearly 3,000 new jobs and assisted the city in retaining 7,000 jobs, according to the office. The strategies helped spur $111.4 million in capital investments and also funded the creation of 579 affordable homes. 

“With strong employment and wage growth, Denver has led the nation as one of the most vibrant economies,” explains OED Executive Director Paul Washington. “We’ve thoughtfully identified goals for JumpStart that we believe will make the most of the opportunities before us.”

The 2017 strategies include encouraging developers of projects financed by OED to hire low-income residents for entry-level positions. It also will support the creation of a maker space, a collaborative space to allow entrepreneurs access to manufacturing resources. The plan will also help create cooperative business ownership models in the targeted neighborhoods.

Colorado Homebuilding Academy trains workers for an industry that badly needs them

One of the continuing stories across Colorado, and the Denver metro area in particular, is growth. The region is experiencing nearly unprecedented employment and population expansion, thanks to numerous sectors like, such as IT and cannabis. That has also led to a construction boom and the demand for more housing, which means it needs construction workers. That’s where the newly launched, Colorado Homebuilding Academy fits in. 

The Denver-based academy is aimed at training unemployed adults, military veterans and youth for careers in homebuilding and construction. It offers a "construction skills" boot camp that lasts for eight weeks. The academy already has partnerships with five high schools. “We have high school training programs that last for a semester with our partner schools and our superintendent training program has 5 courses that last for about 9 months,” explains Michael Smith, director of the Colorado Homebuilding Academy.

“The training programs are offered at no cost to the participant if they can genuinely commit to wanting to enter the construction industry and are ready to start a career after training,” Smith says. “The tuition is covered by a blend of supporters from industry contributions, local government workforce development offices, and community grant programs.”

The need for construction workers is greater than ever as vocational training programs have waned. “Our peers in commercial construction (Associated General Contractors) commissioned an economic impact report that stated over 30,000 people are needed for the Colorado construction industry over the next 5 years...and that count is not including those that are retiring over the same period,” explains Michael Smith, director of the Colorado Homebuilding Academy. 

“Over 80 percent of the builders polled by NAHB are experiencing labor shortages that are slowing down the home building process,” Smith adds. Nationwide that means the homebuilding industry could add roughly 200,000 employees to meet the latest homebuilding boom. 

The new academy was initiated by Oakwood Homes’ CEO Pat Hamill, who brought the industry together to support it. “Oakwood Homes is leading the industry by providing substantial financial support for the development, operations and student tuition assistance programs for the Colorado Homebuilding Academy,” Smith says. “Precision Building Systems, a manufacturer of trusses and wall panels for residential construction, has donated 25,000 square feet of their manufacturing plant to house the Academy offices and training center.”

“The homebuilding industry has been plagued by a shortage of high-quality workers,” Hamill says. “Preparing and training the workforce is the key to ensuring our industry remains healthy.”

 

Turning the Corner offers insights on retaining tech talent

Denver's tech scene is booming, drawing plenty of talent to the region and developing talent locally. The city also is constantly ranked one of the best places to live. However, at least one ranking from Indeed in 2016 found that Denver's employees were the most disgruntled in the country, leading to high turnover rates. 

"It's primarily because the small business community here does not know how to create great work environments for people to thrive," explains Kendra Prospero, CEO of Turning the Corner, an employment services company. "We work with thousands of people every year and eight out of nine reasons they leave their job are because of management issues. This is magnified here in Denver -- the lack of investment the small business community is making in leadership and management basics is appallingly low, and it shows up with low engagement and high turnover."

In the tech industry, for instance, a PayScale report puts the average tenure of an employee at three years, even as employment in numerous parts of the tech industry are expected to see continued growth through at least 2024. Between high turnover and quick job growth, it's harder for companies to develop deep pools of talent in their employees. 

Prospero says that employers can change this trend in Denver by developing mindful leaders by investing in training that promotes better management. "We need to strive to make Denver the place that creates the most emotionally intelligent leaders, and if we do that, we'll have no problem attracting the best to any industry and any job," she says.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Denver launches JumpStart Academy for startups

Denver is further cementing its reputation as a capital for startups with its recently launched JumpStart Academy. The academy is focused on second-stage growth, to help startups reach their next stages. 

The new academy is aimed at training, mentoring and providing opportunities for entrepreneurs. It builds on the other startup tools and resources Denver offers including the Commons on ChampaDenver Capital Matrix, Denver Startup Week and Denver Venture Capital Report.

The academy's initial class includes six local founders with the potential to attract capital and create jobs. Each of the companies in the inaugural class, including HyprLoco, LockState, Maria Empanada, Sugarwish and TurtleWise, have graduated from local incubator or business accelerator programs.

The new academy was launched by the Denver Office of Economic Development, the University of Denver's Project X-ITE and Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network. "With the powerful expertise of both the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network and Project X-ITE to draw on, we're listening to these firms, and responding to their needs with a curated curriculum that positions them for their next round of funding," explains OED Executive Director Paul Washington.

During their six-month training at the academy the founders will receive customized training, mentoring and introductions to help their startups grow.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

"The Whiskey Film" launches crowdfunding campaign

The filmmakers behind brewing documentary Crafting A Nation are now turning their lens on craft distilling in their new project, The Whiskey Film.

The project follows the story of the craft distilling revolution that's taken hold in Colorado in the recent years. "The whiskey industry in the United States is over 200 years old and when a Congressional resolution declared bourbon whiskey as America's native spirit in 1964, it gained a legitimacy in heritage. No other country can call their spirit bourbon whiskey. Since then, state laws have loosened to allow more distilleries to open and thrive," says Thomas Kolicko, the film's director. "What we're seeing now is a lot of very creative and driven entrepreneurs build upon the tradition. The Whiskey Film features the new generation of whiskey craftsmen and women and dives deep into the agriculture ties behind the end result."

The documentary, which will feature craft distillers from across the country, has focused on three Colorado companies: Colorado Springs-based Distillery 291, Deerhammer in Buena Vista and Colorado Malting Company in Alamosa. The documentary crew is currently looking for up to nine more distillers and whiskey-related agricultural operations to capture their stories, according to Stacey Fronek, a producer with Traverse Image, the production company behind the documentary. 

"This is a story about American craft whiskey and to tell that story well, we want to include distilleries from across the country who are innovating and demonstrate a strong connection to agriculture," Fronek explains. 

While Bourbon County and Kentucky Bourbon are often considered the home of bourbon and the heart of US whiskey manufacturing, Fronek says:  "To us, Colorado is the symbolic epicenter of the movement that is defining craft whiskey." Still, she adds, "We love Bourbon County and Kentucky bourbon, and have high hopes for filming there because of the rich history and tradition."

Traverse Image launched an Indiegogo campaign to support The Whiskey Film on March 15. It hopes to raise at least $100,000 to support the production of the project as each minute of the documentary costs roughly $1,000 to complete. "As we continue to fund the campaign, new filming locations will be 'unlocked' on the Indiegogo page," Fronek says. "Until then, the site of our next shoot will remain a mystery!"

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Alterian relocates to Denver, re-emerges as marketing services provider

Alterian, a marketing services company, is making major changes. Following a management buyout by SDL, the company relocated its headquarters from Bristol in the United Kingdom to Denver and relaunched as a marketing services company focused on adaptive customer experience.

The company's services are aimed at allowing marketers to use consumer data and history to engage with customers in real time. Its Dynamic Decision Engine allows marketers to personalize the customer, manage the experience even if they're engaging with a site and over the phone at the same time, ensure followup and incorporate new learning about the customer into the system. 

"Our goal is to give marketers the ability to bring the rich history of consumer transactional data together with the real-time context of how the consumer interacts with the brand, providing a unique and consistent customer experience across channels," explains Robert Hale, Alterian CEO. "For many marketers, this is first time they can really seize the opportunity to connect data with customers -- on customers' terms -- to spark an instantaneous, welcomed exchange and create a profitable relationship."

In addition to the real-time services, Alterian's services also conduct batch campaigns and analytics. Those tools help marketers rapidly define audiences and find opportunities across their ecosystem, the company says.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Comcast Media and Technology Center opens at CU Denver

The $5 million Comcast Media and Technology Center at the University of Colorado Denver opened March 2. The new center is offering a specialized curriculum aimed at students of engineering or arts and media to solve real-world problems and engage audiences in collaborative activities in media.

"If creativity is the currency of the 21st century, then academic institutions need to join with media and technology organizations to work toward discovery and excellence in creativity," says College of Arts & Media Dean Laurence Kaptain. "Denver is the ideal place where our college can align with Comcast to advance the creative economy and the tools necessary to succeed after graduation."

The new center is part of the partnership between Comcast and CU Denver's College of Arts & Media and College of Engineering and Applied Science. It will bring together not only students and researchers but also Comcast employees and the community to develop new technologies. Courses in the center will help students build collaborative skills to create innovative media content.

"The Comcast Media and Technology Center is an example of how CU Denver works with our industry partners to develop innovative approaches to the problems of today," says CU Denver Chancellor Dorothy Horrell. "We're grateful for Comcast's support and delighted to be able to offer this resource for the community."

Comcast also will offer internships to CU Denver students. "The Comcast Media and Technology Center will help to empower the professionals of today and tomorrow with the skills they need to innovate the next generation of rich, immersive media experiences," says Comcast Technology Solutions Senior Vice President and General Manager Matt McConnell.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.


Lockheed Martin to move hundreds of jobs to Colorado, Florida

Lockheed Martin announced that it will move a total of 650 positions to Colorado and Florida by 2024. The company is making the move to relocate its Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) program from California.

"As our business evolves, we're adapting to ensure we deliver the innovation, affordability and performance our customers demand," says Mathew Joyce, vice president and general manager of Strategic and Missile Defense Systems for Lockheed Martin. "We've laid out a long-term strategy that will achieve that evolution and position us for the future, while offering our employees time to plan and prepare for the transition." 

The move is being made to cut costs and centralize its expertise in key locations, the company says. The sites in Florida and Colorado have complementary facilities and employee skill sets and most of Lockheed's employees will be offered a chance to move to work at one of the facilities. 

"We value the deep expertise of our employees, and we're working diligently to shape a transition that leverages the knowledge of this team," explains Rick Ambrose, executive vice president for Lockheed Martin Space Systems. "Reshaping our Fleet Ballistic Missile program will help us take full advantage of our engineering and manufacturing facilities and centralize key skills, saving costs for the Navy on this critical national security program."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Boa rebrands to focus on consumers

Denver's Boa Technology, the company behind an innovative closure mechanism originally designed to replace laces in snowboard boots, has launched a new site and logo design to focus more directly on consumers. The company had focused first and foremost as a business-to-business company but is now moving to focus on consumer marketing and education. 

The company's closure systems can replace everything from traditional shoelaces, to closure mechanisms for casts, prostheses and ski boots. It had primarily offered its products directly to manufacturers but now it's focusing on brand awareness, consumer marketing and education. As part of the effort, the company launched a new site, TheBoaSystem.com.

"With the re-brand, Boa is shifting focus to speak more directly to consumers rather than B2B, and in the last year, Boa has seen a good amount of growth in the brand and marketing teams in preparation for the change in approach and re-brand," says Casey Raymer, a spokesperson for the company. "The Boa global HQ will continue to operate out of its Denver office in the RiNo neighborhood."

The company will move into a larger space at TAXI in RiNo in late 2017 or early 2018, Raymer adds. She explains the new space will be better suited to the company's current needs and planned growth.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Community Wealth Building Network announces first job opportunity

Metro Denver's Community Wealth Building Network aims to build wealth within the community through increasing local ownership, control of resources and income. To date, the network was supported by volunteers at other organizations. But now, it's ready to hire its first staff member. 

"We are looking for someone who can not only connect with disenfranchised community residents, but also feels comfortable meeting with organizational and Metro Denver leaders," says Patrick Horvath, interim vice president at The Denver Foundation. "Denver is on the cutting edge of this movement and we can be a proving ground for innovative economic strategies that lift whole communities."

To that end, the Community Wealth Building Network's new fellow will conduct on-the-ground research into current and potential community wealth building in the metro area. The fellow will work to strengthen connections between such efforts and with the network's partners. They will create a five- to seven-year community wealth building vision and plan for metro Denver.

Community wealth building engages in creating sustainable businesses that keep jobs and resources within the community. It also promotes land trusts, local procurement by institutions including universities and hospitals, local investing circles and community empowerment.

"Look at the Green Taxi company, which is the largest worker co-operative in Colorado: All the drivers own a share in the company as well as their vehicles," says Halisi Vinson, executive director of Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center (RMEOC), an organization that helps companies move from sole proprietorship to employee-owned businesses.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Colorado Harvest Company introduces Operation TransparenC

Colorado Harvest Company is introducing Operation TransparenC, an effort to show its growing processes in great detail to consumers and other industry members. In doing so, the company is aiming to show consumers how legal cannabis growers are distinguishing themselves from black market growers. The company is posting information about the purity and potency cannabis available from its three Colorado Harvest centers.

"Colorado Harvest Company is leading the way on  TransparenC, but our hope is that other companies follow suit," says CEO Tim Cullen. "I would welcome any partnership that has the same goals in mind." 

The company announced the new program last week after the the Colorado Department of Agriculture showed the purity of Colorado Harvest’s cannabis for the second consecutive year. The department tested hundreds of the company’s samples between November 2016 and January 2017. 

"We are constantly working toward ways to be different while providing a high quality experience for our customers," Cullen says. "There are two ways to look at regulation. One, it's a great opportunity for us to differentiate ourselves from the black market and shine for our customers; or two, the regulation becomes the focus and not the customer. We have to keep our eye on the ball while we comply with ever increasing demands from regulatory bodies." 

Cullen has begun speaking with 22 officials from state agriculture departments as far away as Florida and Guam. He also is presenting information about profitable and compliant production methods at two upcoming cannabis conferences.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.
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